Sebastian Vettel said Ferrari lost rhythm as qualifying progressed after a genuine challenge for pole position failed to materialise in Monaco.
Vettel topped FP3 and appeared to be firmly in contention for qualifying, which looked set to be a three-team fight between Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes. That looked set to be how Saturday afternoon would unfold when Vettel led the way in Q1, only to drop off the pace in the remaining two sessions.
The German finished nine tenths behind Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo in Q3 but, despite swearing on the race radio at the conclusion of qualifying, took comfort in how good the car had looked earlier in the day.
"I wouldn't be too hard on our qualifying performance," Vettel said after Q3. "Certainly we suffered some problems in qualifying, I think we partially understood them, but here it's a different track and completely different tyres. I don't know if there are any similarities but the positive news is that the car was very quick this morning. It's not a big secret we were not good on Thursday but we made a big step for today.
"Unfortunately we weren't able to carry that momentum through the whole of qualifying. I don't think the lap times we saw at the end were a big surprise, I don't think they were out of reach it was just a question of us losing the rhythm. Obviously here you can have a double whammy, if you lose the rhythm you don't feel so confident and then you don't tend to click - as simple as that."
Vettel does not think the 0.9s gap is an accurate reflection of Ferrari's true pace.
"I didn't finish the second lap in Q3 because I was slower so there was no point in finishing it. I think you saw we started very well in Q1 but weren't, unfortunately, able to make the make the normal progress. By the end of qualifying we were 4th but I think we could have had a much better result.
"I haven't talked to the team yet but I didn't find the same grip I found in Q1, so it seems it got worse for us but better for everybody else, because it wasn't just one or two cars, the whole field got faster."